It cost a lot to run a commercial software company – even if you’re doing it on the cheap by stringing together already existing code. Shuttleworth’s been rolling his own software, meaning he hasn’t been doing it entirely on the cheap. All indications are that his efforts to keep Canonical afloat are costing somewhere around $30 million a year. Agreed, Mark Shuttleworth has a lot of money – but not an endless supply.
Sun Microsystems is a good example of what happens to a company sitting on a huge pile of money when they can’t figure-out a way to turn red ink into black. After the dot-com bubble burst, Sun was able to live off their savings for about a decade before being forced to agree to become Oracle’s bride. It’s doubtful that Shuttleworth would be able to find such a suitor for Canonical as his company’s major assets are programs written under a copyleft license.